Comment Is (Sense- and Punctuation-) Free

Oh dear. I don’t like this MPs’ Expenses business either – it seems ludicrous that the House of Commons, who merrily abused the expenses system for such essential items as moat-cleaning and building a helipad (oh, please), should now be clamouring for Speaker Michael Martin to step down, as though he bears all the blame because he signed off on the receipts they submitted in the first place. All the politicians’ whinging about the ‘system’ being wrong is annoying too – having an unfair and dishonest claim system doesn’t magically erase your individual sense of morality, although I can see how the competing influences of entitlement and aspiration might lead many MPs to do what everyone else is doing. But even allowing for all of this, one thing is bothering me most of all at the minute – could you ever, sensibly, write the following in a comment box:

How can any of the present politicians be trusted ever again.
The queen should step in and dissolve the goverment sack all the mp`s and lets start again from scratch.With brand new rule`s voted on by us the voter`s.

(Radio 1’s Newsbeat Comment page)

Well, of course you couldn’t. You’d respect yourself too much to add in all those apostrophes, for a start. Secondly, if you’re going to comment on a topical political issue in a public forum, write something that makes sense. I have the greatest admiration for the Queen, despite not seeing much practical purpose in the monarchy – people could learn a lot from decades of such selfless service, I reckon – but even I can’t see her being wheeled into Parliament to hand out P45s to all and sundry. Yes, great idea, sack all the MPs. Who’s going to govern the country then: you, Mr Newsbeat Commenter of Wisdom? Who on earth would sign up to be a brand new MP when the entire country spends their lunch breaks whinging about you on the internet?

On comment pages everywhere, madness prevails. This guy’s writing an eighteenth-century melodrama in his head, I think.

These people are going to be very hard to get rid of.

They will twist and turn and feign sorrow and do whatever they think it will take for them to cling to their power and status. They see themselves as our masters and don’t plan on giving up that role any time soon. Honour does not come into it for a moment. Maybe they are so deluded that they don’t even understand how much we hate them.

(The Guardian)

How about this spouting of Biblical wrath, incidentally written by someone living in Jamaica (right in the middle of the action then…):

Babylon will never give real power to the masses. This sophisticated fraud system called democracy is all about giving the impression of freedom of choice and power to the electorate who do not determine who are the choices for office.

(The Times Online)

And, because we can always look to the Daily Mail’s comment box for calm and rationality, this little gem:

This disdain for the electorate makes “The Divine Right of Kings” look like chicken feed.
This is not feudal Japan and this swine is not the Emperor.
King Charles was executed for similar arrogance.
Is our Parliament not required to follow our wishes in this so-called democracy?…

Alternatives, Rebellion, Revolution, Civil War.

(Daily Mail)

Look. I appreciate that it feels rather like a kick in the teeth when the politicians preaching frugality are using tax-payers’ money to buy their £6 tin-openers (step forward, Welsh secretary Paul Murphy). My teeth are pretty sore too. But for heaven’s sake, be realistic. The country needs a government. Our MPs are not going to twist and turn and feign sorrow all the way to the job centre. And while I’m sure Gordon Brown has a lot on his mind at the minute, bless his little beleaguered face, I don’t think he’s worried about imminent execution. Since we’re not all grabbing our flaming torches and running down to Westminster screeching and waving our arms in the air, stop all this diarrhoea-mouthed posturing and be sensible about it. Hopefully the public anger about this expenses mess will be enough to get it resolved quickly. But it won’t be resolved by you, and it won’t be via the sharp end of a red-hot poker, so drop the dramatics and the civil war metaphors, remember your punctuation, and write comments that don’t make the rest of us choke into our Tracker bars. The end.



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